If you fancy yourself an old-school TMNT fan, then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is likely one of your most anticipated games. The upcoming title takes the blueprint of classic brawlers like Turtles in Time and shines it up for an original adventure that feels better than the old games ever did. I should know because I played a demo of Shredder’s Revenge and walked away even more excited for the full release.
The demo let me battle the Foot Clan across the game’s first two levels: the Channel 6 news station and the streets of New York City. I’m now intimately familiar with these stages, given that I completed the demo six times as each of the playable characters. That’s Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michaelangelo, April O’Neal, and Master Splinter. Although the game supports four-player co-op, I played solo, and these impressions reflect that experience.
First and foremost, Shredder’s Revenge looks and sounds great. The 16-bit graphics are bright, crisp, and accurate to the era it’s drawing upon. From a level design standpoint, I especially loved fighting through the various TV sets in the Channel 6 stage. Composer Tee Lopes’ retro-inspired soundtrack rocks, with the track for the New York level becoming a particularly hum-worthy earworm.
Shredder’s Revenge plays as good as it looks thanks to its smooth and responsive combat that sports a bit more depth than simply mashing buttons. Rushing enemies, flip dodging through incoming offense, and executing rising attacks to air-juggle foes long after they’ve perished hits the right nostalgia notes. The game maintains an enjoyable fast pace and even features a quick recovery roll that immediately gets downed players back into the fray. Yes, you still largely slam the same attack button at anything that strolls on screen, but Shredder’s Revenge feels like a very polished and entertaining “one of those.”
Cracking heads builds up a special meter used to unleash powerful attacks, such as Michelangelo going off with a barrage of nunchuck strikes. Using special attacks while airborne sends characters hurtling towards the ground to clear mobs like a living meteor. Grapple moves allow you to execute the classic “toss bad guy toward the screen” move or have baddies play the Loki to your Hulk by slamming them repeatedly.
The environment can be a weapon as well. Striking the cameras at Channel 6 sends them hurtling into oncoming targets. Smashing fire hydrants in the city sends a damaging projectile, and enemies can even slip on the resulting pool of water. Classic power-ups include health-restoring pizza, POW pizzas that trigger special attacks letting you barrel through scores of foes, and pies that briefly grant an infinite special meter. Each level ended with one-on-one battles against Bebop and Rocksteady. They aren’t the toughest foes to defeat, but seeing them blink red to signify impending defeat, a classic arcade touch, always put a smile on my face.
I had a blast using each character, all of whom possess individual traits to differentiate them. The differences are subtle but noticeable, and no one character feels objectively better than another. Raph and Splinter deal the most damage if you want the hardest hitters. Do you favor speed? Mikey and April move and attack the fastest. Donny’s staff gives him the longest reach, but he’s also the slowest. Leo’s stats are balanced all-around, making him the perfect middle-of-the-road option.
Donatello has always been my favorite Turtle. In video games, the invaluable reach of his staff conditioned me to claim him before anyone else. But I had more fun than I expected playing with shorter-range attackers like Raphael. In fact, each fighter is so entertaining that I wouldn’t feel salty about picking someone else if someone called dibs on Don before me. They’ll still get a side-eye, but a tantrum will no longer be necessary.
Although Shredder’s Revenge feels like an excellent modern throwback, it’s still a beat ’em up through and through. That includes having legacy annoyances like occasionally whiffing shots on foes occupying a lower/higher plane than you. This game isn’t designed to revolutionize the genre but rather to remind you of the glory days of TMNT games. So far, it appears to be doing a superb job of that, and I can’t wait to rescue the Big Apple alongside a full squad upon release.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge launches this summer for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.